Last week I watched the documentary “Wild Horse Wild Ride,” which profiled competitors taming wild mustangs in 100 days. As I learn about Nellie and all of her systems, and as I make sometimes costly and sometimes injurious errors, I must remind myself that the wildest of horses require at least 100 days to tame.
Nellie arrived on June 17, and on June 19 I drove her for the first time during a driver safety course. After the lesson my instructor guided me into a vacant lot in my old ‘hood, kindly offered to me by the neighbors down the block. During the next few days I moved into Nellie, transferring personal possessions from the Pod to the RV, committing a string of errors along the way. We’ve all heard of learning curves. My “curve” was a straight vertical line.
THE BEDROOM SLIDES:There are two slides in the bedroom, which when deployed create fairly spacious sleeping quarters. Nellie is equipped with manual slide locking mechanisms. I unlocked the driver’s side bedroom slide and pressed the button to move it outward. The top of the slide remained static and only the bottom began to swing out. I wasn’t sure if I should keep pressing the button, but told myself this was probably just normal operation. When the bottom was at approximately 35° in relation to the top, I heard popping sounds. I immediately stopped pressing the button. The only logical thing to do was to try the other slide.
(At this point I should mention that Nellie was not plugged into shore power yet and I did not yet know how to use the generator, so I was sweating buckets.)
I unlocked the mechanism on the passenger’s side slide and pressed the button. The same thing happened! The top did not move, but the bottom swung out. I stopped pressing the button sooner on the passenger’s side than the driver’s side.
Have you ever worked on a project and gotten really frustrated? The kind of frustrated where your heart is pounding and you are sweating profusely and making up swear words because the normal arsenal of expletives will not suffice? Tell me, in a moment like that, do you do the wise thing and step away from the project, take some deep, cleansing breaths and attain some perspective? Refer to a manual maybe, or consult the Internet, or ask another living soul for help?
I bet you do what I did – plow forward without a plan or a base of knowledge and just assume that it will eventually work out.
I attempted to deploy both slides again, triple-checking that I had unlocked the mechanisms. After at least two more failed attempts on both sides, I looked back to the driver’s side slide and realized that one of the night stands had ripped off! That explained the popping noises. Holy crap.
I phoned the prior owner Tom, a very knowledgeable and kind Canadian who calls me “kiddo.” I explained that I had unlocked the mechanisms by pushing them upward, but the slides would not deploy. Tom exclaimed, “Oh, no! Pushing the mechanisms upward locks them! Bringing them down unlocks them. You have been trying to open the slideouts in their locked position. Hang in there, kiddo. This is the toughest part of the learning curve. You will probably be able to open the slides if you push and pull on the top while pressing the button. And don’t worry, if you have put the slides out of whack it is not an expensive repair.”
Hmmmm, I wonder how Tom knew that?
Sure enough, by pushing and pulling and hanging like an ape from the top of the slides, they did eventually deploy (and will come in again). A neighbor’s father who is renovating her house reattached the nightstand, and I have an appointment at Camping World to inspect and likely repair the slides. Given the time of year, the first available appointment was July 16! I am thankful that the weather is sunny, as I am not certain that the slides are waterproof at this point.
The Shower Stall: A little trick in the RV world for drip-drying clothes is to install a tension shower rod above the shower enclosure. I purchased a nice silver rod, measured it to the area above the shower stall, placed one end on the wall surface, and began to push the rod under tension to place it on the opposite wall. CRACK! Forgetting that the walls of an RV are not the stalwart walls of a sticks and bricks, I put so much pressure on the wall that it separated from the enclosure. Tomorrow my friend Ken is going to repair it, but in the meantime I have not showered in the RV to avoid moisture getting into the walls. Don’t worry – I have been showering at Trudy and Izzy’s house, where I am parked!
The Exterior Steps: Like many Class A RVs, the exterior steps move outward when the door opens and inward when the door closes, unless a button has been pressed to keep them out at all times. During the move-in I pressed that button. I also added a folding step, because the RV steps are a fair distance from the ground. I placed the folding step slightly underneath the last step on the RV; I was a premises liability defense attorney as a baby lawyer, and I wanted to avoid a tripping hazard (did I mention that I see potential liability everwhere I look?).
Many RV systems are idiot-proof for safety, but eventually another idiot comes along and hatches a different problem. Take those exterior steps, for example. Even when the button has been selected to keep them out at all times, there is one time that they will retract on their own – when the RV ignition is engaged. That way you won’t be driving down the road with your steps out, scraping passing vehicles and sending sparks up from the road surface.
Last week I was running the generator for air conditioning, and I was curious how much diesel fuel the generator used. I put the key in the ignition and turned it to accessory, when I heard a metal on metal screeching sound. I ran to the door and opened it. The RV steps had attempted to retract, but were stuck on the folding step I had so prudently placed underneath the last step of the RV.
I jumped out the door and over the metal mess for fear that treading on the steps would cause them to move. I was able to pry the folding step out from under the RV steps, but they did not retract. I thought for sure they were broken. I hopped back into the RV without using them again, turned the key to the off position and then to accessory, and much to my surprise and delight the steps retracted. Whew! I still use the folding step, but now it is placed parallel to the last step and never underneath it. Readers, heed my cautionary tale!
The Awning: Awnings are notoriously troublesome in the RV world, so I girded my loins in preparation to slay the dragon. The night before the Get Outdoors Expo in Olympia, I phoned prior owner Tom, who verbally walked me through the opening process. I also watched approximately 10 YouTube videos.
During a lull in the activities in Olympia the following day, I decided to put my new skill set to work. I used the special metal rod to unlock the awning by flipping the dog bone lever on the right side. However, when I pulled the nylon strap to open the awning, the left side began to roll out and the right side did not. I quickly realized two things: 1) I was going to need a tall ladder for situations like this; and 2) something was wrong with the dog bone lock. It was really stuck, and there was no way the metal rod from the ground was going to budge it. So, on the hottest day of the year in the Seattle area, I climbed the rear ladder and mounted the roof.
Shit oh dear, it is a long way down when you are standing on an RV that is over 12 feet tall! I am not a fan of heights, and I was immediately fearful. I knew I could not squat down at the edge of the RV to manipulate the dog bone latch, because when I squat I fall over in about five seconds. The only solution was to lie face down on the roof and spring the mechanism with my right hand.
Thankfully the roof is painted white, but the sun had been beating down on it for hours, and it was very hot. I was certainly not prepared for what happened next. I reached for the dog bone latch. Because the left side of the awning was partially out, the awning was under tension. When I flipped the dog bone switch the awning rolled rapidly toward me with great force, ratcheting up my hand, arm and wrist before slamming with a great THWAP against the side of the RV.
I just wanted to cry. Thankfully my friend Izzy planned to visit me at the Expo. He arrived a short time later, finding me on the sofa icing my arm. I said, “I won’t say I am regretting this decision, but right now I’m mentally and physically exhausted and I have no idea how I’m going to pack everything up and get back to Seattle.” Izzy sprang into action the way only a good friend can, calling his wife Trudy (who started making dinner for us), helping me retract slides and stow gear, and insisting that I return with him to Port Orchard, where the livin’ is easy, to regroup and convalesce.
Many of you have asked when I was planning to write another blog post, wondering if I am okay. Yes, now I am okay, and beginning to enjoy myself! With each passing day I choose another aspect of Nellie to tackle, and my friends in Port Orchard are helping me every step of the way. For example, yesterday Trudy and Izzy and I got the awning to work for the first time! I am happy to report I did not break it, or my arm.
I am only 17 days into busting this bronco. Just call me the RV Whisperer.